Instant Play Festival finishes strong with an entertaining day two

Quin Nelson

What do boots, the words “Show me your hands!” and an offstage crash have in common? That was for the playwrights of the Instant Play Festival to create and the audience to find out Sunday night on the Alexander Stage at Harper Joy Theatre.

The seven playwrights whose works were performed Sunday night received three weeks of writing workshops from professional playwrights. On Saturday, they got their prompt (boots, “Show me your hands!” and an offstage crash) and were left to craft a script in a single Saturday night. This left the cast and crew just a day to rehearse before the performance that night. This wild 24 hours has it drawbacks, but the performers loved it.

“It’s stressful but really enjoyable,” said actor Matthew Fisher. “It’s great to see the immediate realization of your work.”

Actress Mykhanh Pham agreed.

“The shortened time creates a lot of excitement and energy,” said Pham.

While Pham is a third-year veteran, many participated in the festival for the first time. Fortunately, the time-crunch did not create as much pressure on the rookies as one would think.

“It was relaxed and low-key,” said first-year actor Gibson Collins. “I think it was a great way to get into theater at Whitman.”

All of the actors put forth lively performances that fit perfectly in the vibrant atmosphere created by the house band Humans Being. The plays largely combined a mixture of comedy and sentimentality, although the ratio differed a great deal. A quick rundown of the plays:

The Reading
Kim drags her skeptical friend Alicia along to her appointment with a psychic. Sam Gelband, performing in drag as the incompetent, cynical palm reader, took over the stage and garnered the most laughs of the night.

“Sam was great,” said Pham,” He’s a first-year and new to the department, so he is definitely a rising star.”

The Porch
What initially appears to be some Southerners just enjoying themselves on their porch comically turns out to be three deadbeat college graduates participating in Talk Like a Redneck Day.

“We fumbled our lines a bit, but I think the audience enjoyed it,” said Fisher.

Fireworks in the Sky
The final play of the night had its deeper moments, but it will be remembered most for its spoiled teenage girl protagonist with comical moral complexity.

The teenage girls best line?: “It’s so hard, like, having emotions.”

Nothing Less than Crazy
This play got the night off to a smooth and sentimental start with a tale of a girl who plays make-believe in a bathtub to cope with the death of her father.

Summer Reading
A girl responds to a tough breakup by burning her books because she “hates their covers.” Fortunately, her lesbian roommates help her cope.

It’s a Three Ring Circus
Three lifelong friends put their present conflicts aside to reminisce before heading off to college. It’s a poignant and quiet moment in the midst of great transition in their lives.

Dinner for Deaf Expressionists
The confounding third play of the night literally left the audience with a single question: “Why?” Hilarious, awkward and possibly genius, it involved a butler being used as a table, an old woman (played by a man) cutting apart her dress, and said woman painting a question mark on her chest in tomato soup. Interpret it at your peril.